Why Having a Professional Install a Water Heater is Important

Water Heater Installation

In Sedgwick County Kansas, you need a permit to install a water heater.  Some people like to point at issues like this as over-regulation by local governments.  But, let me give you a quick example of why it’s important, thanks to the MythBusters:

If you didn’t take a couple minutes to watch it, I’ll give you the short version: water heater goes boom, blowing out through the floor with the bottom of the tank, and blowing completely through the roof (and even getting some air time after penetrating the roof.)  Water expands when heated, and if it doesn’t have a way of escaping though the T&P valve (Temperature & Press Valve) due to blockage or improper installation, things go really wrong.  Fortunately, those sort of catastrophic failures are rare.

But, that’s not the only way a water heater can fail.  Gas water heaters have three potential hazards:

First, all gas pipe must be properly installed and tested, otherwise a gas leak may occur.  A professional plumber has multiple ways of testing for gas leaks, ranging from using soap and water solutions to a “sniffer” that detects the gas in the air.  This isn’t just a theoretical problem, either – gal leaks that result in explosions actually happens several times a year here in the United States.

Second, a flue (exhaust pipe) must properly be installed to allow the gas burned to heat the water to safely escape outside.  Gas water heaters produce carbon monoxide when running, which is an odorless, colorless gas that can kill you.

Third, a gas water heater must have adequate fresh air to work with.

Fourth, it can be a fire hazard.  When installing a water heater, the professional must make sure it’s not being installed in an area too close to flammable materials.  Additionally, homeowners and renters should always make sure that nothing flammable is stored too close to the water heater.

And, of course, there’s that whole explosion thing we covered initially, which we covered first thing.  It’s impressive.  In fact, let’s take a look at another one the MythBusters did:

That danger exists for both gas and electric water heaters, since the explosion isn’t based on the gas used to run it, but instead the blocked expansion of water.

There’s also other dangers involved, though those are damage to your property.  In improperly installed water heater can lead to leaking.  Leaking can cause damage to floorboards if a drip pan and drain isn’t installed (necessary for installation on wood floors, but not concrete).  Leaking could also potentially lead to a build up of moisture, and in a dark area, allow hazardous mold to grow.

We do a lot of water heater installations, so we’ve seen it all when it comes to home-owner and maintenance man installations of water heaters.  Always have a properly licensed plumber install your water heater – don’t risk the health of you, your family, and your property.  Even if you don’t use us, use someone who’s licensed in Wichita to have the job done right.

Water Heater image courtesy of Krystle of Home Jobs By Mom

Why Plumbing Reviews And Mentions Are Important

Plumbing Reviews

You don’t think about it much – you call for an emergency plumbing job, they come in and do a bang up job, you pay them, and it’s the end of the story.  Except, there’s one more step you should take:  leave them a review on their work.

So, why are reviews so important?

It used to be reviews were a word of mouth thing – if someone did a good job, you tell your friends.  It still happens, but it’s slowed down considerably, partially because of the changes in how we find service professionals.  First, it moved to the Yellow Page, where finding a plumber often consisted of the first name or advertisement that sounded good.  Then, slowly, it’s moved online to Googling for local plumbing companies.

With each change, it’s also changed how service professionals like plumbers attract attention.  With the phone book, it was a matter of having a good advertisement.  The bigger the better.  With the online world, having both a good advertisement on Google and reviews is one of the keys to success.

Unfortunately, advertisements on Facebook, Google, and other locations are out of the realm of most small plumbing companies.  It’s impossible to spend money on advertising at the levels that big companies do marketing, while still providing services at a price much lower than the big companies.  Ever wonder why the big rooter companies cost so much more?  Marketing is just one of their major pieces of overhead.  Google AdWords could easily cost $1,000 a month, and ads on other networks like Facebook could easily run into the same costs.  Advertising across multiple networks, like the big guys do, and it’s thousands a month.

Reviews, however, are one of the ways of evening the playfield.  When someone does a search on Google, one of the factors people use in selecting a plumber (or any service professional) is the aggregate score people see under the name.  How many stars, and how many people have review the company is important.  Surprisingly few people actually fill out those reviews.  But, even one review for a small guy ends up counting for a lot.  There’s a ton of plumbers out there, for instance, who have zero reviews, and therefore show zero stars by their results.  It reduces the amount of people who’d be willing to use them because they aren’t trusted, and also drives their Google rank somewhat.

When we’re done fixing your clogged drain, or re-plumbing your rental, or putting in a new sewer line, give is a review.  Be honest, of course – we’re not asking you to say you liked the work if you didn’t.  But, don’t do it just for use – anytime you’ve got a contractor you’ve worked with, hunt them down on Google and give them a good review.  You’re helping keep the small guy keep marketing costs down, and keep them in business in a highly competitive world.

You can review us on Google here, or your can review us on Facebook here.

Social Media links are important, too.

Plumbing ReviewsI mentioned that word of mouth referrals used to be one of the major marketing strategies for service providers.  Now, that portion of marketing has been replaced with social media users – people like you.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks now act as the word of mouth.  Big companies have to pay for all those ads – but, a satisfied customer that tells everyone else on Facebook or Twitter that they’re satisfied?  Bigger companies can’t pay for that sort of thing.

So, take a moment to like us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, and tell everyone that you liked our work.  But, just like reviews, don’t just do that for is – always do it for any contractor you use.  Tell everyone about those small business you use, and you’ll help out a local business owner (and the local economy – whenever possible, buy local).

Of Mice And Men (But More Mice Than Men)

mouse (Photo credit: Brian_Kellett)

I run across hoarders on occasion. I don’t judge them for their lifestyle choice, but it does make my job more difficult having to be a plumber AND a moving company.

This story is about the worst I’ve ever seen.

From the street the house looked like any other house. It was a decent part of town, the yard had been mowed, the flower garden was well-tended. Matter of fact, the homeowner was watering the lawn. I walked up to him and extended my hand to introduce myself. He looked at my hand and said Hi but wouldn’t shake it. No big deal, some people are like that. We stood out front for a few minutes while he explained the reason for the call. He said he could hear what sounded like water spraying somewhere in the back of the house, and his water bill was quadruple what it should be. I asked if he had tried to diagnose or fix it himself. He gave me a weird look and said no, he couldn’t get to it.

He leads me up the front step and asks me not to mind the mess. I’ve heard that statement so many times I don’t pay attention to it anymore. After 17 years of running service calls, I can say (without exaggerating) EVERYONE is somewhat messy.

When he opened the front door I actually blurted out the words “holy shit”. The smell burned my nose. It was so pungent I couldn’t walk inside. I took one step in and my eyes started watering. I stepped back out and told him I couldn’t go in there. I asked him what in the world the smell was, and he said it’s just the way the house smells. I have to admit I was a little surprised to see he wasn’t upset with me. He asked what we should do now, and even said he wouldn’t hold it against me if I wanted to leave. Being a problem solver I wasn’t ready to give up yet and besides, I really wanted to see how deep this rabbit hole went.

I came back from my van wearing a respirator I use when cutting concrete and a pair of safety goggles that are tight-fitting. Now I’m ready to rock. I enter the house again and notice the floor is moving, what floor I could see that is. You would probably call it a trail. Floor to ceiling was stacked with everything this man had acquired over the past 30+ years. But back to the floor. ROACHES, thousands of them. Not wanting to have roaches in my good work clothes, I went back out to the van and stripped down to my underwear in the driver’s seat to put on a pair of coveralls,rain boots, and elbow length rubber gloves. This time I enter the house looking like a character from a steam punk novel. All I’m missing is a few brass accessories and a shotgun.

THe owner leads me to the back of the house where the trail ends in a room full of buckets. There had to be at least 50 5 gallon buckets on the floor of this room. When he turned on the lights things began to jump up from the buckets, which was a little startling at first. It ended up being mice, 10 to a bucket. It looked like a lottery machine. They couldn’t quite jump to the top of the bucket, but close enough that their noses would poke up over the lip. Crawling around the buckets were several cats and a couple ferrets. I asked him what the deal was with the mice, and smiling he said when one of the cats got hungry they would snatch a mouse out of a bucket. Okay, creepy, but I applaud you for your ingenuity. I asked “How do the buckets stay upright”? He kicked one and it didn’t move. “Glue, he said”. There were no litter boxes in this room by the way (nor any of the rooms I walked through to get here). The cats and ferrets were doing their business in the trash piles throughout the house. Smell identified.

From the mice room I could hear rushing water from the next room. It turns out we were in the master bedroom, and the other room was the master bath. He was right though, there was no way in to that room. There was so much crap packed in there I could hardly see the ceiling. I asked him where the crawl space entrance to the house was, (certain it would be covered with stuff) and he catches me off guard by opening the bedroom closet door (which was surprisingly empty) to expose the cut out in the floor. I opened the hatch to see a giant pile of trash covered in rat feces. Yeah… I’m not going down there.

I did fix the leak. The installing plumber had unwisely plumbed the master bath shower supplies in an exterior wall, and they froze over the winter. I was able to cut a hole in to the wall from the outside of the house to access them.

This story took place at the end of winter 2011, and that house is now gone. I don’t of course know the details behind the demolition, but I do recall after I finished, the owners neighbor met me at my van and asked if I had taken any pictures of the inside of the house.

The Man Who Was Married To Himself.

A landlord I do quite a bit of business with left me a voicemail for a service call.
In the message he snickered as he said the tenant was a little odd. I didn’t think anything of it, given how many different people I run across. Before I headed that direction I gave the owner a call to get the scoop and let him now I was on my way. He again told me the tenant was a weird one, and again I shrugged it off.

I arrived at the house early dusk. Pulled in the drive, checked for my phone, keys, wallet and made certain my shirt was tucked in. Walking up to the front door, I did my best to ignore the trash strewn across the lawn and patio. It was pretty bad. I had to walk around old pieces of metal and piles of debris. Empty trash bags tied off on the chain link fence with piles of trash laying underneath them. Again, it was pretty bad.

I knock on the front door and wait a few seconds. No answer. Knock again. No answer.
I knock a third time, no answer. Standing on the porch, still avoiding the piles of trash, I call the landlord who tells me I need to knock really loud. I hang up with the landlord, walk back to the front door and using the bottom of my fist, pound on the door as though I’m there to conduct a police raid. Within a flash I hear a man’s voice say “Just a minute”.
Two or three minutes go by and the door finally cracks opens.

Theres a disheveled old man standing on the other side peering out through the four-inch crack that he allowed the door to open. I announced myself as Brandon with Plumb Crazy and I was here to fix the plumbing issue. He opens the door all the way and giving me a confused look says “I aint aware of any pluming problem, maybe my wife knows. Give me a minute and I’ll go ask her.” Without giving me a chance to respond he shuts the door abruptly.

Ten minutes pass and I’m still standing outside. Curiosity got the better of me at two minutes and I had to look to see what all the trash consisted of. LOTS of dirty magazines. I don’t think typing LOTS in all caps conveys how many dirty magazines were on this mans porch. There was a boatload of dirty magazines in one form or another of degradation. For 8 minutes I pondered why someone would use their front porch to dispose of their smut collection.

Now I’m feeling extremely out-of-place. I’m standing on a strangers porch, surrounded by piles of his (I’m assuming) old dirty magazine collection. I called the landlord but got no response. I knock on the door lightly and got no response. OH yeah, I have to ‘knock loudly’, so I pound on the door like I’m mad at it, and I hear a womans voice say “Just a minute”. Another ten minutes go by (I’m still standing on the porch with the cities largest thrown out dirty magazine collection) and I get irritated. So much so that I call the landlord, and because he won’t answer his phone, I leave an irritated message for him.

The door finally opens. I don’t know if it was fear, disbelief, or a simple instinct to remain living that made my legs start to move backwards, but that’s exactly what they did. A completely involuntary motion moving me away from the door. I damn near tripped on a pile of smut mags. Ten feet from the door I politely asked my legs to stop moving… there was a train wreck standing in front of me and I wanted to see just how bad the carnage was.

Standing in the doorway was a little old man (even more disheveled than previously), wearing a summer dress. He had on a blonde wig that looked as if it was backwards. He had a full complement of makeup on his face. If you could call it makeup. I think it was makeup. It didn’t really look like any makeup I’ve seen, but I’m pretty sure his goal was to look like he was wearing makeup. Lipstick smeared all over his mouth. Black circles of paint around his eyes. Dark red circles on his cheeks. Did I mention he had a moustache? At least he had a moustache when I met him the first time. It was now shaved clean. If it was a moustache to begin with. Who knows. He had on bright red high heels and had apparently put on his women’s hose too quickly, because there was a run from his ankle that lead up under the dress. He had on white gloves with lace on the wrist side. Costume jewelery hung off his neck to his waist.

You might ask yourself how I can recall so much detail. Well, I’ll tell you. That image has been burned on to my brain. Not in… but on. Tattooed. It will always be there. If I come down with Alzheimer’s, the last memory I have before the disease takes me will be that little old man dressed as a woman.

A few seconds go by…or an hour. Time slows down for the individual being sucked in to a black hole. And that’s where I was. The world was all around me, but I couldn’t interact with it. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t look away. I could hear my brain telling my eyes to avert, but they wouldn’t listen.

He stands there for what seemed like an eternity before speaking, presumably to let me take in what he thinks is a very attractive woman. When he finally speaks, he says in the worlds worst woman impersonation “Hi, I’m so & so’s wife. I’ll take you to the problem in the basement.”
Eyes still wide, I shook my head no. I didn’t yet have the ability to speak, and my legs wanted to start moving backwards again. The only thought going through my head was “It rubs the lotion on its skin, or it gets the hose again”. I just shook my head no. He gave me a confused look and said “Aren’t you the owners plumber?” I shook my head yes. He said, “the leak is down in the basement, I’ll show you”. I forced myself to say some words, “nuh uh”.
Again with the confused look he says “you are the plumber, right?” I said “yeah, I’m a plumber,(in a higher tone than what I normally speak) but I’m not going in there. I need to make a call”.

Please don’t fail me now legs!

I trot to my van and call the landlord. No answer. Hang up and call him again. No answer. I send him a text. “Answer your damn phone”. A few seconds later my phone rings. Its him thank god. The first thing I hear when I hit the talk button is hysterical laughter. He’s laughing so hard he can’t speak. When he calms down, get gets out the words “Did you meet so & so?” followed by more laughter. My brain still wasn’t working properly and I honestly didn’t know how to answer. I said “What the hell did you get me in to here?”. He tries to tell me the tenant is totally harmless, but I’m not buying it. I wasn’t going anywhere near that door until HE showed up to escort. Still laughing he not only agrees, but tells me he started in that direction the first time I called him!

The landlord shows up as I’m sitting in my van. I no longer care about this job, or anything to do with it. Morbid curiosity was all that kept me from driving away. We meet in the driveway and he proceeds to explain in a joking manner how harmless the old man is. So many questions flooded my brain I didn’t know which to ask first. I decided on the easiest. “What’s with all the dirty magazines, and why are they all over the front porch?”. He smiles from ear to ear and says, “Well, the old man said his wife made him throw them away”. I’m so confused that normal thought process is broken. I paused to absorb that information. I stuttered over my own words and said “You mean… wait… his wife?”. And he says “Yeah, you just met her”. W T F

I said “That’s his wife, the person dressed in drag staring at us through the front door?”.
He says “Yup, that’s her”. I paused again to absorb the information. Then I said, “But that’s a dude. That’s him! What are you telling me?”. He says, (and I’ll never forget these words) “He’s married to himself”. “You can’t be married to yourself!” I yelled at him. He replies “Tell him that”. I said “You’re telling me the little old man thinks he’s married to himself. Not jokingly. He actually believes he’s married to himself?”. The landlord says “Yup. Has been for 12 years”. W T F “Ok, (sigh) as long as you go in first, I’ll take a peek at the plumbing”.

The inside was worse than the outside with trash. Except now I had a path between the piles. On the wall were pictures of a couple. No. That’s not what they were. On the wall were pictures of the little old man looking like a little old man. There were pictures of him dressed in drag. And there were pictures which looked like he had glued separate pictures of himself together…as a man and woman. He even made it look as though he had his arm around himself.

I don’t remember what was leaking in that house. I don’t even remember if I fixed it. I will forever remember a very nice, polite, little old man who was married to himself.